And Thus Begins the Journey

“Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong” I shouted to my hiking partner, Cooper, as I crawled into our car.

We were preparing to head west from Minnesota, our home for the last year and a half together, when we realized we had lost one crucial piece gear; our tent.

Where it had gone, I have no idea. Over the past three months Cooper and I had been methodically wrapping up our lives in Northern Minnesota. In the middle of February, we moved half of our belongings to his parent’s house, and two weeks later we moved the rest of our belongings out of our tiny studio apartment into a friend’s spare room. A week later, we moved another half of our belongings to Cooper’s parent’s house, and then finally two weeks later we moved away from Duluth to start our slow journey out to California. With all these moving pieces, it’s a wonder we didn’t lose more of our things. Of all the things we could lose though, of course it had to be our shelter for the next six months.

What should have been a horribly large set back though became, in reality, a fairly small blip to the start of unemployment and seven months of vacation. The two of us have talked about the trail and what’s to come as a great test of our ability to communicate effectively with one another, and when it comes to dealing with the absolute worse, we tend to excel.

Our first backpacking trip resulted in our friend wandering down the wrong side of the trail and getting completely lost. Instead of panicking, we geared up the following morning and set off on our first twenty mile hike (approximately eight miles longer than we were use to doing) in an effort to find him. We ended up finishing the twenty miles two hours before we usually completed our normal twelve, and functioned so seamlessly with one another that we barely had to speak in order to understand one another’s needs.

And while backpacking through Isle Royale in the fall of 2016, we ran out of water two miles from camp, our batteries died in both our headlamps and an extra flashlight, and we ran out of fuel for our stove in the middle of making ourselves dinner. Rather than crashing and burning, we found a critical thinking puzzle in the trailhead box and spent the night laughing over cold Knorr meals while trying to figure out which ice cream Cindy, Lindy, and Mindy ate under the faint light of the moon. The trip, in total, was one of the best ones we’ve ever taken.

We’ve both learned the value of persevering rather than resorting to the easier emotions of anger, frustration, disappointment, etc. To test this skill at the immediate start of our seven month vacation left me feeling relatively positive about our ability to get along throughout the entire trail despite the poor moments. And I’m excited to continue testing time and time again our ability to communicate effectively through the worse moments of 2,650 miles of trail.

We’re slowly making our way out west, stopping along the way to see friends and family and some national parks, before setting foot on the trail, going NOBO, on April 24th. Stay up to date with our journey here and on instagram @alexamshapiro. Until then, happy travels!


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Comments 2

  • Pat Stillman : Apr 3rd

    Wow! What’s the plan to replace the tent? Can you borrow one?
    I’m looking forward to the next installment. I know you two will figure thing out and can’t wait for the next installment.

  • Annie Windholz : Apr 3rd

    So good to see you this past weekend. Safe travels and have fun!


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